Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?

(Ray Dennis Steckler, 1964)
Far and away the most tiki movie I've ever seen - and if it is bad, then it is bad the way tiki is bad: tasteless, delusional, and full of fun. With absolutely mesmerizing cinematography, competent editing, and constant surprises on the soundtrack, an obvious amount of technical know-how is on evidence behind the camera - the problem is that the director is in front of the camera. Not that Steckler/Flagg's monumentally perverse sensibility doesn't define the thing top to bottom. But the reason it works so well is the obvious tension between the dazzling cinematic presentation and the yard-sale Freudian antics onscreen. Every single character provides a new level of incongruity: the incomprehensible Atlas King, Madame Estrella's halloween-hobo sidekick Ortega, Sharon Walsh's dunderheaded square brother, Steckler's own hoodied layabout - all these clashing poverty-row types coalesce into a discordant symphony of quirk. And while you are right to be suspicious of any horror movie that is fifty percent musical performances, here they actually add to the momentum for once, growing more baroque and hallucinatory with every number.

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